Q. When should I get a new roof?
A. It is sometimes difficult to know exactly when you should replace your roof. Some people wait for the roof to leak. I don't recommend this approach. I make the analogy of driving your car until it breaks down on the freeway. Most of us prefer to maintain our cars and fix them before there is damage so I recommend the same thing with a roof. If you suspect the roof is close to the end of its life cycle you should call an honest expert to evaluate the condition.
Q. What signs should I look for?
A. Age is the best indicator but often old roofs still perform well if they have been maintained. One sign of excessive wear is the loss of granules on the surface of the shingles. Other signs for a composition roof are: cracks, buckled areas, wind damaged areas, pieces of roof that appear a different color, and stains in the soffit or ceiling.
Q. Can I add another layer on top of my old roof?
A. I always think it is better to remove the old roofing. If you take it all off you can look at the sheathing for damage and dry rot. That being said there are times when you can re-cover your old roof. I never would recommend using a three-tab for re-covers over an old three-tab. The new shingles are very thin and the same style over the other can leave courses nearly on top of each other and that can create problems. The three-tabs can "cup" and allow water to run sideways and get to fasteners and cause damage. The old roof can sometimes cause lumps and bumps in the new roof as well. The only time I recommend a re-cover is with heavy weight architectural shingles over an old roof that has one layer and is clean and laying flat. The only real reason for this is to save money or to save the mess and noise of a tear off. Code allows for up to three layers but I never put on more than two.
Q. How long should a roof last?
A. There are many different styles of shingles that are designed to last for up to 50 years. The cheapest are supposed to last for 20 years. In reality it depends on several conditions and the years of service expected are just an average. I have seen the old 15-year three-tabs last as long as 30 years, and I have seen new 20-year shingles used for recover, last only 7 years. The climate here in Oregon may be better than some areas and worse than others so there is no exact time. The steeper the pitch of the roof the longer it usually lasts. Sometimes trees in the area can affect the life as well. The average roof should be inspected at least yearly and more often after 10 to 15 years. This is when many roofs begin to fail.
Q. What are the most common causes of leaks?
A. Most often I find problems at transitions between roofing materials and other areas such as walls, vents, pipes, and valleys. Most leaks are due to damage or workmanship. Rarely is there a material failure. On flat roofs it is usually an edge, drain or some other flashing problem.
Q. Can I install the roof myself?
A. Yes! You can do the roofing job yourself but there are some things to consider. Unless you have had a lot of experience with roofing or have someone who has had the experience help you it can be a big mistake. If you aren't used to being on a roof it can be dangerous. You won't save much money if you fall and get injured. Roofing is a very physical job and if you are not used to the hard work you will be surprised at how hard it is! Time is another consideration. My crews average one or two days on a job. An inexperienced homeowner can take many days or even weeks! If you really want to do it yourself you should at least hire someone to consult with so that you don't make a costly mistake. I am happy to do this.
Q. How should I choose a roofing contractor?
A. The best way is to have a referral from a friend or a company you are familiar with from your area that has been in business at least twenty years. The average contractor is in business less than 5 years. You want someone who will be around if you have a warranty problem or workmanship issue. A long-standing company is a good start. To survive that long the company has proven to be a survivor and the odds are better that you will have the benefit of that experience.
Q. What other things should I look for in a roofing company?
A. Be sure that the contractor provides copies of their license, workers comp certificate, liability insurance, and references if requested. Check with the Construction Contractors Board to see if they are in good standing and call the better business bureau for any complaints.
Q. What if I want the very best companies?
A. If you want only the elite companies that can provide the best service and warranties you should be sure the company is a factory-approved installer with a top-flight manufacturer. Those companies can offer enhanced warranties and often have the backing of the manufacturer if there is a problem. The best companies can also be found by looking for these things. 1. A thorough written estimate 2. A good sales presentation where you can ask questions. 3. The owner or sales person is responsive and easy to reach. 4. There are good warranty choices including factory enhanced and added workmanship options. 5. They should have a good plan in writing for starting and finishing your job. 6. There should be a job completion checklist to insure a proper clean up and detail work. 7. The sales person should come back to insure your satisfaction and ask about any problems with the job.
Q. What should I require before I sign a contract?
A. Every contractor should give you proof of a valid CCB license, Workers compensation insurance, lien notice information required by the state, a clear written contract, a sample warranty, product information, a time frame for the work, and references if asked.
Q. How do I check on current licenses and insurance?
A. You can contact the Construction Contractors Board. No company can have a valid license without liability insurance, bond and workers compensation. They can be reached by phone at 503-378-4621 or at their website at www.ccb.state.or.us. The better business bureau can be reached at 503-226-3981 or on the web at www.thebbb.org
Q. What is the best type of roofing?
A. There are many brands and types of roofing and it is a personal subjective opinion as to what is the best. Each house is unique and every owner different. That being said there are some conditions that require certain specifications. A home with a good pitch, between 4" in 12" and vertical has many options including, Three tab composition, architectural shingles, wood shakes or shingles, tiles of various types, metal, and a variety of less common materials.
Q. What if my roof doesn't have enough slope and how do I know.
A. If the slope is less than 4" in 12" you may still shingle the roof but there must be two layers of paper or a product called ice and water shield. The lack of pitch allows water more opportunity to get in so code calls for extra measures. Your contractor should be able to tell you the slope or you can use a level and a tape to check it. Have someone hold the level then at one foot away from the corner touching the ridge measure the vertical up to the bottom of the level. If it reads 4 or higher nothing extra must be done. If it reads less than four precautions need to be taken. In the event the pitch is less than 2" in 12" I don't recommend shingles at all.
Q. What options are available for low slope roofs?
A. Again, there are many types of material available but this style of roof requires a built up or single ply membrane for best results.
Q. Which materials do you recommend?
A. I prefer the single ply PVC sheet roofing. These roofs are the best in my opinion because they are heat welded with a hot air gun with no flame or glue required. My experience has led me to use the Duro-Last PVC membrane for a number of Good reasons but other materials such as hot tar, torch down, and fluid applied systems can work.
Q. What about concrete tile?
A. Although I have put some of these systems on there are a number of drawbacks. These systems are very heavy. Some brands are close to 1000 Lbs. Per 100 square feet. Heavier framing is usually needed and an engineer should determine if your roof could support the weight. In contrast a 50-year composition roof weighs from 350-500 Lbs. Tile has a small overlap on the sides of an inch to an inch and a half. This can allow moss and dirt to impact the edges and "wick" water under the tile. Tile manufacturers seem to change colors, styles and even go out of business very quickly so it is important to get extra tile and store it in case of breakage over the years. You may not be able to get them later. It is not recommended to walk on most tile roofs so cleaning and maintenance can be an issue for the homeowner.
Q. What is felt paper and how is it used?
A. There are different weights of felt paper and different ASTM or rating numbers for them as well. The two most common types of felt are #15 and #30. Felt paper is used as a vapor barrier applied to your roof sheathing. Building code requires one layer of #15 ASTM rated felt over the bare wood before the shingles are installed on a roof with at least a 4" in 12" pitch and two layers for roofs with less slope. #30 felt is often used under cedar shakes, tile, or metal roofing. #30 felt is not needed under shingles and may even create wrinkles that are visible through asphalt shingles because it is so stiff.
Q. What is the difference between 3-tab shingles and Architectural shingles?
A. A three-tab shingle is the old style that has been around for many years. These shingles are a single layer of granular material with two slots cut in the fiberglass mat. When installed these shingles have a distinct pattern of slots on the roof surface. Architectural shingles are made of two pieces of material laminated together to produce a three dimensional effect. The laminations appear to be random and do not usually have a pattern.
Q. Is there a difference in manufacturers?
A. There are many differences in shingle manufacturers with regard to style, selection of colors, warranties, customer service, years in business, and quality.
Q. Which are the best ones.
A. Again, this is a subjective answer. I have been in the business personally for about 33 years and I have my opinions. I associate myself with the largest companies who give the best customer service and quality. I can't let my customers down so I want a company who backs up their warranties and is customer oriented as I am. The companies that I prefer are GAF Materials Corporation, the largest manufacturer in the world, GAF has a great record of quality and customer service and they have stringent rules about whom they allow to be factory certified installers. ELK Corporation is very similar and I use them often as well. I also like PABCO, Certainteed, and Malarky.
Q. Which shingles are best for high winds?
A. I like the laminated Architectural shingles because they are heavier and don't have slots cut into the fiberglass mat like three-tab shingles do. GAF has a wind warranty up to 110 MPH for some applications. Other brands have similar standards. Shakes, cedar shingles, tile, and metal also do well.
Q. Do I need a building permit for a roof and who gets it if needed?
A. Not all roofing jobs require a permit. Most residential roofs do not require a permit but it varies from town to town. If you want to know, call your local city, county or state building department. Some cities want a permit for large amounts of dry rot repair or sheathing replacement.
Q. What building codes should I be concerned with?
A. For roofing the most common questions are about fire rating and ventilation. Most all manufacturers of composition shingles have a class "A" rating now. The literature or packaging will have this information as well as wind ratings and other specifications. For ventilation the code has recently changed. The new code calls for 150 square inches of flow for every 100 square feet of attic space. You also need an equal amount of soffit venting to move the air properly.
Q. What type of venting is best?
A. There are several options available and it depends on the type of construction you have as well. The most common type of vent is the old "can" or passive attic vent. These work well when there is plenty of attic room and sufficient soffit ventilation. Ridge vent has become popular recently and is best suited for attics with little free space like cathedral ceilings and scissor truss construction. Other options are hard-wired attic fans and gable end fans to actively move the air.
Q. What happens if I don't have enough venting?
A. Most manufacturers require the proper venting or the warranty may be voided. Also heat and moisture can build up in the attic and reduce the life of the roof. In damp climates mold and mildew can grow when there is not enough venting.
Q. Is mold and mildew dangerous?
A. There has been a lot of media attention about mold lately. Nothing really has changed other than some trial attorneys have gotten large settlements. There are about 2500 varieties of mold and only about 16 have proven to be harmful. That being said there are some people who have serious allergies to mold and can be affected. Mold exists everywhere but in sufficient quantities can cause some people to have adverse reactions. If you have a question about mold there are now contractors who specialize in detection and mitigation. The best thing to do is not to allow dampness into your home. Mold requires three things: moisture, heat, and a food source. Moisture is the easiest to control. Fix any leaks immediately and dry out any moisture that has gotten into the house.
Q. Is moss and algae a big problem?
A. The main problem is the esthetics of the home. Most moss is not going to harm the roof unless there is too much of it for too long a time. Moss forms when there is organic materials from trees or other sources deposited on the roof. Usually it starts with black lichen and progresses to the green moss we all see. Moss grows best in cool shady areas usually under trees and on the north and east sides of the roof. It can do damage to the shingles over an extended period of time but doesn't always require removal. Often more damage is done removing the moss than the moss would do if left alone.
Q. How can I get moss off or keep it off?
A. Some shingles now have granules that help keep the lichens off and reduce the chance of moss as well. Contractors and homeowners also install zinc or copper on the surface of the roof to limit growth. The draw back to this is the esthetics and fastening can be a problem. If there is too much area metal may not keep all the moss off. There are products both liquid and granular that may be applied to kill moss and can be found at most lumberyards or home improvement centers. These are best used in the late spring to kill the moss and then later when it has died you can sweep it off with a stiff broom. Don't power wash the roof! You will do more damage than good.
Q. What is flashing?
A. There are many types of flashing. Flashing is usually made of metal and used as a transition between roofing and other materials. Common areas and types are: drip edge, gable edge, valley, step shingle, wall, vent, plumbing pipe, and chimney flashing. Some flashing is made from plastic as well. I prefer metal that has a baked on 20-year finish but many are just galvanized.
Q. Do you need flashing in the valley areas?
A. Most manufacturers allow the shingles to be used without metal in the valley but I prefer metal. When shingles are used they must be bent and stressed into shape. They can't be fastened in the center so they bridge up and take some slope out of the valley. This allows water to stay longer and not flow out as well. Debris can build up and the angle of the valley shingles has water running against the edges of three-tab shingles and the laminations of architectural shingles. If a closed, "California" style or "weaved" valley is used workers must be very careful with nail placement. I have used metal valley exclusively for over 25 years with no problems and that is why I use this type.
Q. Are nails better than staples for applying shingles?
A. This has been a long debate for years. I used to use staples for many years and had no problems. If they are done properly staples will work fine, however they must be placed correctly. I have switched to nails. The data I have seen shows that nails do hold better as far as pull out values. I now hand nail most roofs and sometimes on very large roofs I use a nail gun that shoots a standard roofing nail.
Q. What is the "best" color for shingles and what is the reason?
A. Best is a subjective term depending on the criteria for the decision. White or light colored shingles will remain cooler. Darker shingles will gather more heat. Heat can break down the asphalt in shingles faster but all shingle, even white, get very hot. The white may last a little longer but there is not test data that I know of to quantify that. Go with a color that you like and be sure to have enough venting to remove excess heat. There are now shingles coming out with new ceramic granules that dissipate heat and stay much cooler but they are very new and not tested by time yet.
Q. If I need new roof sheathing, what is best?
A. I prefer CDX plywood in most cases. If you have a shake or cedar shingle roof with "skip" sheathing, you will need to have sheathing installed on top of it. OSB wafer board can be used as well as _" CDX plywood. The OSB is a little cheaper but does not hold nails as well as plywood. When you have cedar shingles and the spaces between the slats is small 3/8" CDX can be used.
Q. Do I need new gutters when I do my roof?
A. Not always. Many gutters are still in good shape. It depends on the type of gutter you have and the condition it is in. I recommend continuous aluminum or pre-painted galvanized gutters. I don't like plastic gutters or gutters with seams that can leak later. Your roofer or a gutter installer can determine if you need to replace your gutters.
Q. Do roofers install gutters?
A. Some roofers do both but I do not. It takes a well-trained crew to do a good job of gutters and there is high turn over in workers. Many times the quality is not as good with these contractors so be careful to ask about who is working on the gutters. Some companies cut corners by using improper corners, end caps and downspouts. Some roofers even use gutters as a way to get the business and then give a substandard job to cut expense. Use a specialist that does only gutters.
Q. Are metal roofs a good choice?
A. I don't really care for metal roofing on a house. There are a number of issues that come with a metal roof system. There have been big advances in the technology for metal roof but many problems still remain. Condensation can be an issue as well as noise during a hard rain. It is not recommended to walk on your metal roofs, as they can be damaged and slippery. Flashing details are still poor with most all penetrations being sealed with either a gasket or some form of caulking screwed down to the surface. When the sealant fails they can leak. Until the manufacturers can come up with a way to pre-form flashing into the roof panels this will always be a potential problem and in my opinion most metal makes the property look cheap and too plain. The perception that the metal roof will "last forever" is a myth. I have replaced many that have failed and the customer was very unhappy.
Q. How long does a roofing job usually take?
A. It varies but one day to a week depending on the difficulty of the job. In extreme cases or on larger roofs it can be much more. My crew averages one to two days on the average house in good weather.
Q. Can you do the roof in the winter?
A. Yes. In fact I do roofs all year around. There are some advantages as well. Prices are lower on materials during the winter and roofing companies are less busy. Since it only takes a day or two to finish a roof you don't have to have a big window of good weather to complete the job.